Toronto Riot Fest Day 1: The Flaming Lips, Death From Above 1979 & More

Saturday, September 6, 2014

We wound down summer festival season by attending our first Riot Fest. While smaller versions of the festival took place in Toronto at Fort York the last two years, this year offered an expanded line-up at Downsview Park. Having rained hard the night before, we made the trek north under grey skies and spent Day 1 tromping across the mud-covered grounds that threatened to steal your shoes. The weather was on the brisk side but the chance to bask in gallons of high school nostalgia was absolutely worth it.


Mounties (Roots Stage, 12:40PM)

We started the festival with Mounties, having looked forward to seeing them since their Hillside set was cancelled due to weather. Featuring Steve Bays of Hot Hot Heat (vocals, keys), Ryan Dahle of Limblifter (guitar), and Hawksley Workman (drums, vocals), the band is new, but the players aren’t. With Bays as the dynamic frontman, and a hook-heavy, trance-like dance vibe that was reminiscent of Hot Hot Heat but which often pushed the boundaries into the weirdly experimental category, they knew how to win over the early festival-goers. The psychedelic synths of “Pretty Respectable” and hazy, reverb-laden power pop of “Tokyo Summer” were highlights. The crowd expanded as the set progressed before the band ended with the immensely catchy poptastic single “Headphones.”

RIOT FEST: Mounties @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14 RIOT FEST: Mounties @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14 RIOT FEST: Mounties @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14 RIOT FEST: Mounties @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14 RIOT FEST: Mounties @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14 RIOT FEST: Mounties @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14 RIOT FEST: Mounties @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14


Rubblebucket (Riot Stage, 1:10PM)

After seeing Brooklyn dance band Rubblebucket at Hillside, we decided to check them out again, for just their second show in Toronto. Brandishing trombone, trumpet, and saxophone, plus even a couple of flutes at times, it was difficult not to dance along to “Silly Fathers” and “Save Charlie,” especially as Annakalmia Traver (vocals, saxophone) spun around, wrapping herself up in a neon sheet. Despite the bigger stage and the photo pit in between the band and the crowd, they still pulled out their parachute and went for a parade through the crowd, getting everyone to jump during “Came Out of a Lady.” One of the more oddball bands on the festival line-up, it was fun to witness as the rioters fully bought into their antics.

RIOT FEST: Rubblebucket @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14 RIOT FEST: Rubblebucket @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14 RIOT FEST: Rubblebucket @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14 RIOT FEST: Rubblebucket @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14 RIOT FEST: Rubblebucket @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14 RIOT FEST: Rubblebucket @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14 RIOT FEST: Rubblebucket @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14


Circa Survive (Roots Stage, 1:50PM)

Having not been north of the border in years, Circa Survive wasted no time in making up for being away for so long with a heavy blast of hardcore nostalgia. Frontman Anthony Green’s screaming emo melodies on “Strange Terrain” were so powerful, he brought the banner at the side of the stage down (okay, the wind may have helped). Despite the intensity on stage, the crowd remained pretty subdued, other than some diehards. Green picked up on this and after new song “Jimi,” made the comment that “most of you are already doing this, but just be still until I tell you to move” during set closer “Get Out.” They finally earned an appropriate response after he yelled “Go!”

RIOT FEST: Circa Survive @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14 RIOT FEST: Circa Survive @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14 RIOT FEST: Circa Survive @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14 RIOT FEST: Circa Survive @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14 RIOT FEST: Circa Survive @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14 RIOT FEST: Circa Survive @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14 RIOT FEST: Circa Survive @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14


New Found Glory (Riot Stage, 2:20PM)

The sun peeked out during New Found Glory’s set. Frontman Jordan Pundik bounded from one end of the stage to the other and an instant circle pit formed as the excited crowds relived their pop-punk youth. Their short set was a brief reminder of teenage angst and that it’s “All Downhill From Here” – and that’s not an “Understatement.”

RIOT FEST: New Found Glory @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14 RIOT FEST: New Found Glory @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14 RIOT FEST: New Found Glory @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14 RIOT FEST: New Found Glory @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14 RIOT FEST: New Found Glory @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14 RIOT FEST: New Found Glory @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14 RIOT FEST: New Found Glory @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14


Manchester Orchestra (Rock Stage, 2:45PM)

Manchester Orchestra was one of the bands I was most looking forward to seeing at Riot Fest. With a set heavy on material from 2009’s Mean Everything to Nothing, Andy Hull (vocals, guitar) was a driving force of intensity in his words on “Pride” and “Shake It Out.” His was the kind of ferocity that bites through the cool veneer of your exterior, creeps right down into your bones and roars through your blood. From this year’s Cope, we got “The Ocean” as well as the title track before they eased into the outro of “The Only One” to conclude. Despite the riveting expansive nature of their songs and the shredding guitars from Robert McDowell, unfortunately the band’s overall live show erred on the boring side and in the end, left me craving more.

RIOT FEST: Manchester Orchestra @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14 RIOT FEST: Manchester Orchestra @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14 RIOT FEST: Manchester Orchestra @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14 RIOT FEST: Manchester Orchestra @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14 RIOT FEST: Manchester Orchestra @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14 RIOT FEST: Manchester Orchestra @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14 RIOT FEST: Manchester Orchestra @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14


Taking Back Sunday (Rock Stage, 4PM)

I stuck around the Rock Stage between sets in order to secure a front row position (in the thick of the mud and puddles) for Taking Back Sunday, arguably one of my most treasured emo pop-punk bands from late high school/early university. Not caring one bit about the riddles of puddles, crowdsurfing began immediately within seconds of “Cute Without the ‘E’ (Cut From the Team)” starting. Taking us on a trip through memory lane with “Timberwolves at New Jersey” and “What’s It Feel Like to be a Ghost?”, Adam Lazzara (vocals) showed off his still-nimble moves, swinging the microphone up in the air, often ending up wrapped up in cords. “Stood A Chance” from their most recent effort, Happiness Is, was decidedly more poppy compared to the rest of the setlist but melded in well. They saved the fist-pumping “MakeDamnSure” for the very end. Some may not have agreed with Lazzara’s declaration of “We’re called Taking Back Sunday and we’re the best fucking band in the world” but at that moment, happiness was watching Taking Back Sunday, legs completely covered in splashes of mud.

RIOT FEST: Taking Back Sunday @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14 RIOT FEST: Taking Back Sunday @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14 RIOT FEST: Taking Back Sunday @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14 RIOT FEST: Taking Back Sunday @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14 RIOT FEST: Taking Back Sunday @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14 RIOT FEST: Taking Back Sunday @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14 RIOT FEST: Taking Back Sunday @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14


Brand New (Roots Stage, 6PM)

After taking a break for hot dogs from Let’s Be Frank (featuring Dine Alone Foods sauces) and checking out merch, it was time for Brand New. Flower bouquets adorned Jesse Lacey’s (vocals, guitar) microphone stand and his gravelly charm bred a cult-level of adoration from the crowds. The band seamlessly moved between heavier post-hardcore and slower emo tearjerkers, as they shifted from album to album – starting with three songs from Daisy before moving on to Deja Entendu, with the highlight from this segment being “Okay I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don’t,” which encouraged an en masse sing along. There was only a brief stop in poppier territory with “Seventy Times 7” from Your Favourite Weapon before they delved into the deeper and darker The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me. The crowds positively erupted at the first slicing strains of “Sowing Season,” while moods were brought down with the haunted “Luca” and “Jesus.” A seemingly never-ending version of “You Won’t Know” pushed them over their timeslot, but Lacey didn’t seem concerned about making Death From Above 1979 wait a few minutes before being able to start their set on the stage beside them.

RIOT FEST: Brand New @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14 RIOT FEST: Brand New @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14 RIOT FEST: Brand New @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14 RIOT FEST: Brand New @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14 RIOT FEST: Brand New @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14 RIOT FEST: Brand New @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14 RIOT FEST: Brand New @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14


Death From Above 1979 (Riot Stage, 7PM)

Toronto duo Death From Above 1979 thundered down the stage with their distinctive gritty screeching squelches, and heavily distorted synths. Whether on bass or behind the synths, Jesse Keelor and Sebastien Grainger (vocals, drums) moved in tandem throughout their set. There was still “You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine” and “Romantic Rights,” but the duo used most of their time to introduce the crowds to the majority of the track list from their long-awaited sophomore album This Physical World to be released just days after the festival. From the sound of “Right On, Frankenstein,” “Cheap Talk,” and “Gemini,” we’re in for another banger.

RIOT FEST: Death From Above 1979 @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14 RIOT FEST: Death From Above 1979 @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14 RIOT FEST: Death From Above 1979 @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14 RIOT FEST: Death From Above 1979 @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14 RIOT FEST: Death From Above 1979 @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14 RIOT FEST: Death From Above 1979 @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14 RIOT FEST: Death From Above 1979 @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14


The Flaming Lips (Roots Stage, 8PM)

There is something altogether magical about a Flaming Lips show. Like the sight of a first snow fall, the crowd looked on with faces of innocent wonder, relishing in the spectacle as people dressed as colourful inflatable mushrooms and a rainbow came on to the stage, a light show began flashing, and we were soon showered with confetti. We were transported to some fantastical world reminiscent of Candy Land and Super Mario, salivating waiting for the next act to be revealed, each more elaborate than the next – everything from inflatable king and queen caterpillars, a sun, and aliens.

Donning a sparkle-laden leotard, frontman Wayne Coyne was the bedazzled circus leader. A magic wand in hand, he was in full control, calling for a stop to “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt. 1” a few bars in with the demand that the crowd tear their attention away from the “Fuck Yeah Riot Fest” balloons and “get into the karate chop part” of the song. If that wasn’t enough, he then emerged on stage – and crowdsurfed – in a hamster ball-like plastic bubble.

It wasn’t until second last song, the quintessential “Do You Realize??” that I actually paid attention to the song being played. With more blasts of confetti for the finale, this piece of theatrical performance art came to a spectacular end. Though I would never call myself a Flaming Lips fan, I now understand why people rave about the experience of seeing them live.

RIOT FEST: The Flaming Lips @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14 RIOT FEST: The Flaming Lips @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14 RIOT FEST: The Flaming Lips @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14 RIOT FEST: The Flaming Lips @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14 RIOT FEST: The Flaming Lips @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14 RIOT FEST: The Flaming Lips @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14
RIOT FEST: The Flaming Lips @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14 RIOT FEST: The Flaming Lips @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14 RIOT FEST: The Flaming Lips @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14 RIOT FEST: The Flaming Lips @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14 RIOT FEST: The Flaming Lips @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14 RIOT FEST: The Flaming Lips @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14
RIOT FEST: The Flaming Lips @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14 RIOT FEST: The Flaming Lips @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14 RIOT FEST: The Flaming Lips @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14 RIOT FEST: The Flaming Lips @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14 RIOT FEST: The Flaming Lips @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14 RIOT FEST: The Flaming Lips @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14


While The Cure headlined the day, we opted for an early departure and headed out as “Shake Dog Shake” wafted through the night air. | CD

RIOT FEST: The Cure @ Downsview Park, 06-09-14

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Categories: Riot Fest 2014

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